Viva La Vida indeedah! Mark Cousins is currently curating a season at the BFI of... well basically just films he really, really likes that nobody's seen, he's calling it "Levelling the Field" and last night it was the turn of Paul Leduc's 1986 Frida in its ONLY SURVIVING PRINT, mind. If you get the chance to see it again this Tuesday do, really do. This is particularly sage advice for anyone among you who saw and appreciated the following aspects of last year's Ian Curtis biopic Control: That nothing in it feels like a dramatic reconstruction, there's none of this "dialogue moving the action along" balls, not so you'd notice anyway, the talking's always part of the portrait... That the casting is spot on (in the case of Frida, Ofelia Medina) so you never feel you're being shown something, rather the camera's left rolling to pick up a living subject going about its human affairs... That it's surprisingly funny. And that the songs are good.
It was towards the end of this bit that I fully regained consciousness - That's one thing, if you do go Tuesday, wrap up warm. I keep forgetting about the BFI's cryogenic air conditioning. I ushered there back in - hell - the twentieth century and have never to this day managed to stay awake for a single screening, which is why I look so well-preserved. It was still a very good film though, and timely. Timely because in my frustrated non-knuckling down to the Secret Agent screenplay, hereafter known as "Fat Adolf", I had completely forgotten what it was I had been hoping to achieve when I started, and "Frida" brought a lot of that back. As the five-year-old note plastered two posts back testifies I had never initially intended to write a pithy thriller, I wanted something where a scene might simply consist of a lost fat man failing to rescue a fly from his tea, something that would take care of the pence and let the pounds take care of themselves, like pretty much everything I've ever really enjoyed writing.
What's the real stumbling block? Dialogue. I love dialogue, but the more a film can say without it the better. Staring at this unwritten screenplay I had forgotten that. I'd groggily assumed this professional sketch-writing gig would inevitably hone my skills as a screenwriter, but that's all nonsense, isn't it, bum maths and a false lead. Instead I'm going to write this screenplay with as little dialogue as I can get away with... There's a lot of important talking in "The Secret Agent" but I have the answer: Birdsong. Like in Big Brother. Not necessarily birdsong, but that same unsynchronized ambience reminiscent of surveillance, and the silent movies. In English-speaking countries wordless performance seems far more embraced by theatre as an option these days than by cinema, which is odd, and bad, because it's so much easier to not be heard on film.
(Mark Cousins introduced Frida with an overwhelmingly infectious generosity. In his notes to this season he writes about "the cultural forgetting whereby not many people have heard of Paradjanov and Diop Mambety" CLEARLY going for the two maddest names he can think of, but still meaning EVERY word of it. His enthusiasm is fearless. Pick up a BFI guide and have a read, it's stirring stuff. I love him.)
(Also found in notebook.)